Results from table styles survey

Table styles have been introduced in LibreOffice Writer 5.3 as the successor to the AutoFormat feature. The table designs from this old feature were used as the initial set of table styles, so we asked on the design mailing list to submit proposals for new table designs and finally ran a survey to include the entire community in the process.

Results

The survey comprised of all designs with a standardized table of data presented in a randomized order. Participants were asked to report their preference/liking or disliking to each design on a Likert scale. The analysis was done with a stacked bar plot, where positive replies of like or strong like are displayed right of the center and negative replies are displayed to the left of the center.

User responses (see this image for an overview of the designs; raw data and R scripts are available here).

Figure 1: User responses (see this image for an overview of the designs; raw data and R scripts are available here).

In total, we received 534 responses. The results in figure 1 clearly demonstrate the preference for clean and simple table designs, ideally with only horizontal lines. It also shows that the legacy designs, marked with an asterisk, are outdated.

In the survey, it was also possible for participants to comment on the designs. Many comments criticised the outdated designs, bad contrast, and inappropriate alignment. Suggestions regarding colors ranged from avoiding colors at all, over using pastel tones, to vivid and “tropical” colors. It was recommended to provide a flat design with no lines but good spacing between cells and alternating row colors. Another topic was the justification where headers are often requested to be aligned with the content, i.e. right aligned for numbers, but also centered titles was prefered.

Discussion

We take this result as a clear agreement to remove most of the legacy styles, which was was one of the main questions of the survey. As we intentionally do not design by committee, but involve the community as a true Open Source development, we need your agreement from time to time to remove parts that are not zeitgeisty anymore. Diversity of opinions and independence of a particular person is crucial to us.

The updated styles will consist of simple and plain layouts in black and white, but also of some colored variants. Here are more recent variations based on the survey results:

New proposal for colored tables.

Figure 2: New proposal for colored tables.

As discussed in the blog post Style your Table, the function is limited to the properties first/last column/row, alternative row/column, and the base style with paragraph style for each of these elements. Of course we are still open to include your proposals for new table styles, so feel free to submit your suggestions here, attach it to the ticket tdf#101349 on Bugzilla, or add a link to it in the comments.

In addition to the table styles that will be bundled by LibreOffice by default, it’s in the user’s hands to make their tables beautiful. Here are some useful references:

To cut a long story short: “Less is more”.

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